Runnin’ On

Christmas is coming

Boxer the carthorse had a good old snuffle around his manger, not one grain of corn left, his hay net was empty and his little pal had vanished. The little pal was a mouse who cleared up all the food that Boxer had left, sometimes he started to clear it before Boxer had eaten what he wanted. Boxer soon stopped him, he’d snort so hard the mouse would be blown into the corner of the manger. Despite all this the two animals were pals and kept each other company.

Boxer went over to his stable door and put his head out through the open top half, the cart was there, already filled with logs. The Master sent logs to all his tenants every winter. Just then Boxer heard his driver Tom’s cheerful whistle as Tom came into the yard rubbing his hands together to warm them up.

Boxer lowered his head and Tom pulled the horse’s ears and gave him a good old scratching along his neck, Boxer loved it. It didn’t take Tom long to get Boxer between the cart shafts, with his harness polished and the brasses shining, the horse and cart were ready to start delivering the logs around the village.

Tom took a large sack of straw and a smaller sack of hay from Boxer’s stable and put them under the cart seat, these were for the Nativity scene at the village church. Sitting on the seat Tom took up the horse’s reins, gave them shake and Boxer leant into his harness, the cart went across the stable yard and all the logs were wedged tightly together in the cart as it rattled over the cobbles.

As Tom drove towards the village the local boys joined him as the cart reached their homes, they each scrambled into the cart and held on tightly over the bumpy paths. This was a special ride to deliver logs to all the older people in their village, there were usually some treats for the lads, sweets or gingerbread and of course if it was a Grandma’s house, kisses too! The other boys laughed at them but they knew it would be their turn as well at sometime on the ride, then it would be them blushing as they climbed back into the cart!

Boxer wasn’t forgotten, the villagers sent the boys back with carrots or apples for him, Tom let him have some of them and the rest went in a basket under the seat for later.

At last the cart had only one more delivery to make, the hay and straw were for the vicar’s wife, every year the small children went to the church to help with the Nativity scene and of course for that they needed straw and hay!

Tom jumped down from the cart and thanked the boys for their help, with their pockets bulging with sweets they ran off home. Tom smiled, he could remember when he had been their age, helping to deliver the Christmas logs had been good fun then and that wasn’t many years ago either!

Settling Boxer down with his nosebag to enjoy after his delivery round, Tom took the sacks of straw and hay into the church, Mrs Williams had her band of willing children organised, they scattered straw among the sheep, cows and donkeys they had already arranged around the stable, the hay was tipped carefully into the manger and arranged to the childrens’ satisfaction. Mary and Joseph were put right by the manger and Baby Jesus was gently laid in the hay, little hands tucked hay around the baby and the children stood back to admire the effect. Of course there were a few adjustments to make before all the children thought everything was just right.

Mrs Williams had made biscuits and cakes for her little helpers and they all tucked in while they tidied up, Tom had told them to put the sacks in the cupboard, he’d be coming back after Christmas to take the straw and hay back to the stables for Boxer’s bedding.

There was some hay still in the sack, one of the girls pulled it out and looked at the little lamb that lay at the side of the manger, the child took a bite of her cake, then she carefully tucked the hay snugly around the lamb. What she didn’t notice were the cake crumbs that had dropped into the hay. The crumbs hadn’t gone completely unseen though.

The next day the children were back at the church for Sunday school, the teacher asked if they would like to draw a picture of the Nativity scene that they had arranged the day before. Paper and crayons were shared out and the children sat down to create their masterpieces,

When they had finished their drawings Mrs Williams collected their work and told them that all the pictures would be pinned onto a big board so that their Mums and Dads could see them on Christmas Eve at the carol service.

Later that evening when the vicar had managed to find a board big enough for all the pictures Mrs Williams started to pin them up and she noticed there in most of the pictures was a mouse asleep in the hay around the lamb.

All the parents were surprised to see the mouse in the pictures and wondered where it had come from, do you have any ideas?

Janet Tilburn

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